For the Dannellys, it's all in the family and the pool for Columbia's championships
Since 1999, Kristi and Pat Dannelly have been waking up their children — all six of them — during the summer swim season with the soundtrack from Disney's Tarzan movie. The drums start beating at 6:30 a.m.
"There is no way any kid could pretend to be asleep," said Hanna Dannelly, 21, a recent graduate of the University of Delaware. "It pretty much shakes the floorboards."
"We play it from the family room stereo, but I make sure all the bedroom doors are open and with the volume we play it, everyone can hear it," said Kristi. "You can hear it from outside the house. It literally shakes it."
On Saturday, July 25, the music will reverberate through their Columbia home one more time this summer as the last two Dannelly children — Owen, 15, and Mick, 12 — get their wakeup call for the Columbia Neighborhood Swim League's All City Championship Meet.
The All City meet represents the end of the season for the 14 CNSL teams. Swimmers can participate in two individual events and one relay. To make things fair, All City competitors are slotted into three divisions based on their qualifying times during the dual meet season.
The two-day event, which begins at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, July 24, is expected to draw more than 1,100 swimmers. The Phelps Luck pool, which has hosted the event for years, will be covered in tents, the atmosphere loud and boisterous.
"For me it's more of a party. It's just a lot of fun," said Avery Bazell, 15, a sophomore at Atholton High School who swims for the Pointers Run Piranhas. "There is some competitiveness to it, but it's more about the fun."
"You get to compete against all the swim teams, not just one, so if you have friends on other teams you can hang out with them," said Mick Dannelly, 12, a seventh-grader at Clarksville Middle School who swims for the Pheasant Ridge Rapids. "It's fun because you can see everyone and compete against some really good kids."
The Dannelly family is all about swimming and, as Mick will tell you, "weird names."
There is Alex, 25. She swam for the Rapids and coached them for six years. Ryann, 24, swam for the Rapids and played basketball at the University of Richmond.
Hanna swam with the Rapids until she aged out at 18. She has spent time in her life explaining to people that there is no "h" at the end of her name. "A lot of official documents like to add an 'h' on Hanna. I have to tell them to take if off."
Then there is Jack, 19, a junior at Salisbury University, followed by Owen — she is a junior at River Hill High School and also runs cross country and plays basketball — and Mick, who swims year round at the UMBC pool.
"I love it," said Pat. "It's the best thing to do in Columbia on a Saturday morning."
"For many years we had all six kids swimming or coaching and both of us working every meet," said Kristi. "Summer swim is the one activity that the entire family has always done together so it easily became the favorite activity for our family."
The Rapids faced a familiar season-ending opponent in the Piranhas, as both teams share the River Hill pool. At one time, River Hill had one team, the Raptors. But it became too big, and in 1998 the Raptors were split into two teams based on their neighborhoods. The Rapids and Piranhas still are two of the three largest teams in the CNSL.
After being dominated for years, Pheasant Run entered last Saturday's meet having won the last two meetings between the teams. If the swimmers weren't ready, the concession stand run by the Rapids was ready to go — doughnuts, waffles, bagels, breakfast sandwiches, coffee and a variety of candy were available. At 8:03 a.m., the first swimmers were in the water.
Roots in Columbia's pools
Pointers Run also has a family with long ties to the CNSL. Carol and Tom Wolter have spent 23 years watching their five boys swim.
"It's been wonderful watching them barely get across the pool and now, swimming at high levels and in college," said Carol, who was at last week's meet. "It's been a wonderful experience. And the friends they have made — that's why they keep coming back, so they can see their neighbors and friends."
Carol, whose parents moved to Columbia in 1967, swam for Bryant Woods and graduated from Wilde Lake High School. Tom grew up in Columbia's Thunder Hill and graduated from Oakland Mills.
"I swam for the CNSL in its infancy," said Carol. "I wanted the boys to enjoy the experience that I remember so fondly."
Shane Wolter, 27, swam at Shippensburg University, works at the Columbia Association's Swim Center and is coaching for the Columbia Aquatics Association. Preston, 25, swam at George Mason University and Brennan, 22, swam at Shippensburg University. Drew, 20, is swimming at Gannon University, where he is a junior.
And then there is Jackson, 15, a junior at Atholton High School, which all the boys attended. He has been swimming with Pointers Run since he was 3, according to Carol.
"They set so much up for me," said Jackson of his brothers. "Being the last one through, I feel like I'm kind of the last of a legacy."
As Saturday's meet progressed, so did the accumulation of dark clouds. With the first sound of thunder, the meet was stopped at 9:15 a.m. Earlier this season, the third scheduled meet was canceled for all CNSL teams because of dangerous weather. According to Susan McDonald, CNSL supervisor, that hadn't happened in more than 15 years.
No one wanted another cancellation.
"It doesn't look good," said Pheasant Ridge coach Mat Grinnell as he looked at the weather radar on his phone.
But the lightning and the rain stopped and at 10:52 a.m. event No. 21 was underway. Soon, the concession stand would be selling hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Because of time constraints, the relays that normally end the meet were not held. The last event, the 50-yard butterfly for 13-14 girls, went off at 12:25.
All anyone could do then was wait.
Members of both teams positioned themselves across from each other at the deep end of the pool.
At 12:42 p.m., the result was announced: Pheasant Ridge 284, Pointers Run 276.
"It was a crazy day and I am proud of all the swimmers," said Pointers Run coach Blake Jones, 21, a rising senior at McDaniel College.
Jones swam for Pointers Run before joining its coaching staff. She has been the head coach for three years. "We're rivals, but we're also friends," Blake said of the neighborhood competition. "It was a great meet. We're happy for them."
Seconds after the final score was announced Grinnell, who swam for Pheasant Ridge for 14 years and is in his first year as head coach, found himself in the water.
"I'm happy with the way everybody swam," said Grinnell, 19, a rising sophomore at Elon College. "It was a really good meet. We had a lot of best times and not too many disqualifications."
Each team ended the season 2-2.
Now it's on to the All City meet, the league's showcase event.
Kristi Dannelly is ready with the Tarzan soundtrack.
"The drum track on the first song is an amazing way to shake the entire house awake as we crank it up, way up," she said.
Hanna Dannelly, who is home for the summer, looks at the music a little differently now.
"It's good until you reach my age and then you're no longer swimming," she said. "And then you wake up at 6:30 in the morning and realize you don't have to get up until 10 and you have to listen to it anyway."
Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun